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View Full Version : Myths/stories about barren women?



areteus
01-21-2013, 04:10 AM
Not sure where this fits. Technically it should probably be in the experts wanted forum but I am not asking out of any need for research for a story. I am asking for a friend.

And no, the friend is not me, before anyone asks...

Because of personal circumstances, this friend of mine is looking for any stories or myths - particularly myths or legends - where a woman who is unable to have children, for whatever reason, is seen in a postive light. Most of the references we can think of seem to be negative - the maiden, mother, crone model for example sees the crone as the darkest of the three and links her with death and decay and so on. After my wife and I discussed it for a while, wracking our memories for anything and coming up with nothing, she suggested I post it here to see if anyone out there has any ideas...

My theory is that because the concept of being unable to have children is seen as a bad thing for women for most of history such stories do not exist because cultures always saw it as being linked to evil. So I am not expecting any but will be pleasantly surprised if they do appear... also, I do imagine that there are likely some more modern tales written where this is the case and would be interested in any you know of...

BeatrixKiddo
01-23-2013, 02:08 AM
Hmmm...you make a good point. Stories of women who can't have children, are usually negative. *runs off to Google to research this*

Wilde_at_heart
01-23-2013, 02:33 AM
It's an interesting question for sure... Can't think of any myself...

Even in modern culture it's viewed negatively.

Brightdreamer
01-23-2013, 02:54 AM
The only instances I can think of are infertile women who seek alternative means of reproduction: the old "buy a miracle from a witch" trick... in which case, the stories tend to center on the offspring, not the woman.

Classically, there were virgin goddesses who weren't necessarily bad, but I don't suppose they count - other gods bred (freely, on some instances), but they chose not to, so it's not like they were implicitly infertile.

Biologically, reproduction is the key to species survival, after all. No kids means no future for the tribe... a mentality that (unfortunately) lingers even now that we're overpopulated. It being harder to prove a male is infertile than a female (in traditional settings), and many cultures being male-dominated anyway, the woman tends to get the blame if no offspring occurs. (That's my admittedly-undereducated theory, anyway...)

BigWords
01-23-2013, 04:42 AM
I'm coming up blank, and the indexes at the back of the two nearest books on myth and legend don't list either infertility nor sterility as a searchable term at all, so...

thothguard51
01-23-2013, 04:47 AM
The bible, old testament...

Silver King
01-23-2013, 06:57 AM
Not sure where this fits. Technically it should probably be in the experts wanted forum but I am not asking out of any need for research for a story. I am asking for a friend...
I wasn't sure at first either; however, now that it's been in this room for a couple of days, your best bet for more responses might be in the Story Research forum after all.

I can move it there if you'd like, or it's welcome to stay here in Office Party.

JimmyB27
01-23-2013, 09:21 PM
All I can think of is that I, personally, would find it a positive thing since I can't stand kids, and it would mean no need for contraception...

Lavern08
01-24-2013, 09:25 PM
The Bible - Old Testament...

This ^

However, in all of the cases (IIRC) these women were eventually blessed with a child or children.

Chris P
01-24-2013, 09:32 PM
Toth and Lavern were thinking the same was I was. Sara, Abraham's wife, is the most famous example. But as Lavern points out, her barrenness was seen as unfortunate, and her fertility was a reward for Abraham's faith.

I can't think right off of any myths or legends where barrenness was seen as liberating.

Lavern08
01-24-2013, 09:51 PM
...I can't think right off of any myths or legends where barrenness was seen as liberating.

Although I gotta admit, while I love kids and am disappointed I couldn't give my hubby a son, I feel a little bit liberated without any. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon11.gif

Susan Anwin
02-07-2013, 08:57 AM
All I can think of is that I, personally, would find it a positive thing since I can't stand kids, and it would mean no need for contraception...

haha, same here

areteus
02-12-2013, 04:20 PM
Thanks all, a lot of good responses here and sorry it took so long to get back to this thread. For some reason there is a bug in AW which means that threads I start sometimes don't appear in the 'new posts' search so I have to actively come looking for them and last time I did that there had been no responses so I haven't bothered to look for a while...

Yes, the Biblical stories are generally the same as many of the fairy tales in that the story is about a quest for children - therefore it is about the children and the woman being barren is seen as a bad thing that needs to be fixed.

I'd also argue that the images of the Crone in the classic portrayals of the Three is a barren woman - the maiden is a woman who has not yet given birth (not necessarily a virgin but many interpret it as such), the mother is one who has and the crone is one who can no longer do so. In fact, about the closest to a positive spin on the issue I can see is Granny Weatherwax who chose not to have children and held onto that firmly until it was too late and still has very few regrets (as covered in Lords and Ladies when she reminisces about her alternative selves who have married and had children) and her ongoing virginity becomes critical when faced with a dangerous unicorn (where her thoughts revolve around the fact that in any number of other universes, the alternate versions of her who chose to be a Mother would die there because they could not control the unicorn).

But that is all I could think of off the top of my head... and that is a choice issue rather than 'being barren' at an age when she might have wanted children.

Anyway, thanks for all the responses, if there are any more I am still interested in hearing them.